Hillicon Valley: Pelosi blasts Facebook for not taking down doctored video | Democrats push election security after Mueller warning | Critics dismiss FCC report on broadband access | Uber to ban passengers with low ratings

Hillicon Valley: Pelosi blasts Facebook for not taking down doctored video | Democrats push election security after Mueller warning | Critics dismiss FCC report on broadband access | Uber to ban passengers with low ratings
© Aaron Schwartz

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

PELOSI RIPS FACEBOOK: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Judd Gregg: An Irish friend and wisdom Juan Williams: Warren on the rise MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday blasted Facebook's refusal to take down a doctored video of herself, using the incident to accuse the tech giant of being a "willing enabler" of Russian election interference.

"I think they [Facebook] have proven -- by not taking down something they know is false -- that they were willing enablers of the Russian interference in our election," Pelosi said in an interview with California radio station KQED News.

Pelosi was referring to a doctored video of her that had been slowed down to make her appear to be slurring her words or intoxicated. The video was posted on Facebook last week and has since been viewed more than 2.8 million times.

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Facebook pushes back: Facebook decided not to remove the video but told The Hill that its fact checkers had flagged the video as false and were downgrading its distribution in the Facebook news feed.

Facebook spokesperson defended the decision before a group of international lawmakers in Ottawa on Tuesday, saying that "it is our policy to inform people when we have information that might be false on the platform so they can make their own decisions about that content."

'Lying to the public': Pelosi said Wednesday that while she "can take it," her issue was with Facebook "lying to the public" by allowing the video to stay up.

Pelosi added that Facebook not taking down the doctored video called into question the company's assertion that it was the victim of Russian online interference that was meant to sway the 2016 presidential election.

"We have said all along, 'Poor Facebook, they were unwittingly exploited by the Russians,'" Pelosi said. "I think wittingly, because right now they are putting up something that they know is false. I think it's wrong."

Read more here.

 

SILICON VALLEY REP SCOLDS FACEBOOK: Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDemocrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law GOP lawmaker on Iran: Congress should vote on 'what's worthy of spilling American blood and what isn't' Pelosi shoots down censure for Trump: 'If the goods are there you must impeach' MORE (D-Calif.), who represents Silicon Valley, is calling for Facebook to remove the doctored video of Pelosi.

Tweeting late Tuesday, Khanna said that even "fairly informed" voters are being duped by the video, which is slowed down to make Pelosi appear drunk and incoherent.

"Tonight, over dinner, a fairly informed voter said to me that given the events of last week, Nancy Pelosi had to go," Khanna tweeted.  "After my surprise, he asked had I not seen the videos. I explained they were doctored. He replied cavalierly, 'Oh I didn't know.'"

"Facebook must remove the video," Khanna, who is a close Pelosi ally, added.

During an appearance on CNN last week, Khanna defended Pelosi against Trump's ongoing attacks, saying: "She has been civil ... the president has launched a personal attack on her and is amplifying doctored video."

"I will say this as a Silicon Valley congressperson: Facebook needs to remove that doctored video immediately," Khanna said. "They haven't done that. Imagine if CNN were saying 'we're going to limit distribution' but still showing the video. It's absurd. They need to remove it."

Read more here.

 

ELECTION SECURITY PICKS UP STEAM: Senate Democrats are doubling down on their push for Congress to pass additional election security legislation, after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE warned about the threat of election meddling on Wednesday.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan senators to introduce bill forcing online platforms to disclose value of user data GOP senators divided over approach to election security Hillicon Valley: House lawmakers reach deal on robocall bill | Laid-off journalists launch ads targeting tech giants | Apple seeks tariff exemptions | Facebook's Libra invites scrutiny MORE (D-Va.) said Mueller made it clear during his remarks at the Justice Department that Congress should take steps to prevent future election interference.

"We must take steps to protect our democracy by passing legislation that enhances election security, increases social media transparency, and requires campaign officials to report any contact with foreign nationals attempting to coordinate with a campaign," Warner said in a statement.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Mueller's comments an "urgent plea for action." Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (D-Del.) added that Mueller "reiterated clearly and unequivocally that Russia attacked our democracy by interfering with our 2016 election."

"As we approach the 2020 elections, we must invest more in election security and protect our democracy. This must not be a partisan issue; protecting our democratic process is far more important than politics," Coons said.

Read more here.

 

LAWMAKERS HOPE TO DERAIL CHINESE RAILCAR PLANS: A bipartisan group of House members from New York are raising concerns about Chinese involvement in building New York City subway cars, zeroing in on the potential that the new train cars could be hacked or controlled remotely.

The group of 15 lawmakers, led by Reps. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceDemocrat offers measure to prevent lawmakers from sleeping in their offices Hillicon Valley: Pelosi blasts Facebook for not taking down doctored video | Democrats push election security after Mueller warning | Critics dismiss FCC report on broadband access | Uber to ban passengers with low ratings Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars MORE (D-N.Y.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Senate panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban MORE (R-N.Y.), wrote a letter to the New York City Transit Authority and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) recently to "raise concerns regarding the safety and security" of New York City's transit system following MTA's decision to allow a Chinese-owned company to design new rail cars for the city.

"As you may be aware, critical infrastructure systems around the country have been increasingly targeted in recent years as part of coordinated hacking attempts and other forms of systematic interference, often stemming directly from foreign governments," the lawmakers wrote.

"These actions are part of comprehensive efforts to undermine U.S. economic competitiveness and national security, and we have serious concerns regarding MTA's involvement with some of those same foreign governments and the protections in place to ensure that our subway systems remain safe and secure," they added.

In 2018, MTA announced that the winners of its "MTA Genius Transit Challenge" would include the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), which proposed an investment of $50 million of its own funds to develop a new subway car in New York City. The challenge was announced in 2017 in order to upgrade the subway system.

While the members acknowledged that "no U.S. companies currently manufacture transit railcars," they stressed that they have "serious concerns regarding the intimate involvement of a Chinese state-owned enterprise in these efforts."

Read more here.

 

CRITICS SLAM FCC BROADBAND REPORT: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday released a report showing the number of Americans with access to high-speed broadband has increased in recent years, figures that were dismissed by the commission's two Democrats and outside consumer groups who say the FCC's data-collection practices are too faulty to yield substantive conclusions.

According to the agency's broadband deployment report, the number of U.S. residents without access to a high-speed broadband connection decreased by more than 18 percent between 2017 and 2018. The FCC said 4.3 million of those who gained broadband access live in rural settings.

The two Democratic commissioners at the FCC issued dissenting statements, saying it was fraudulent to claim that broadband is being deployed in a "reasonable and timely" manner.

"This report deserves a failing grade," Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said. "It concludes that broadband deployment is reasonable and timely throughout the United States. This will come as news to millions and millions of Americans who lack access to high-speed service at home."

The controversy: The FCC's annual broadband deployment report has been mired in controversy for some time, particularly after the commission was forced to revise a draft earlier this year that overestimated the number of Americans receiving high-speed broadband. The draft, circulated within the FCC, included faulty data from one company, Barrier Free, which erroneously stated it was serving millions more people than it actually was.

Watchdog group Free Press outlined in a filing how Barrier Free's inflated figures led to errors in the FCC's draft report, and the commission said they would fix the data after receiving revised numbers from the company.

Data collection under scrutiny: Critics say the commission should not rely so heavily on self-reported data from providers. The report asks broadband providers to account for any area where it could provide service rather than the areas where it does provide service.

"There is bipartisan and near universal agreement that the FCC's method for determining how many Americans have broadband vastly overstates broadband deployment and access," Gigi Sohn, a former adviser at the FCC under the Obama administration, said in a statement.

"The FCC should complete its long-pending proceeding to change the methodology by which carriers measure broadband access," Sohn added.

Read more on the controversy here.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GDPR: Europe's sweeping data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is facing tough questions at its one-year mark as regulators and industry giants intensify the fight over its enforcement.

The rule rolled out last May sparked big expectations from privacy activists who hoped it would force the largest tech companies like Facebook and Google, and the even murkier world of third-party data collectors, to fundamentally alter their business practices.

Tech watchers say that a year in, many of the lofty goals of the bill's supporters have not been realized because companies have yet to make major changes to their data practices. But experts add that the law's full effects are still taking shape.

"A year is too early to say that it's been an obvious success or obvious failure," said Lindsay Barrett, a staff attorney and fellow at Georgetown Law's Communications and Technology Clinic.

It's all about what happens next: Whether the law will force a real shift in the tech industry will largely depend on the next stage, in particular on how European courts rule in privacy cases and how data regulators pursue investigations and enforcement actions. Barrett said that establishing those legal precedents is a slow process.

"We have to consider the inertia that both the GDPR and privacy laws here are working against. I'm optimistic is the short answer," she said. "It takes a lot to move the status quo to where the GDPR is hoping it will go."

On our side of the pond: The first anniversary of the privacy law comes as Congress works on drafting the nation's first federal consumer data protection law.

Daniel Castro, the vice president of the industry-backed think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said that the first lesson Congress can take from the European law is to establish a unified framework for businesses to abide by before other states try to set their own laws.

"The point of the GDPR was to create a single digital market," Castro said. "The U.S. is moving towards the opposite of that."

'The best is yet to come': Privacy advocates disagree and see plenty of potential for the GDPR to curb what they see as Silicon Valley's excessive data collection.

"Regulators are only starting to enforce the GDPR and it will take years to have full effect. But already, things are looking bleak for our colleagues at Google and Facebook," Johnny Ryan, the chief policy officer at Brave, a company that operates a privacy-focused internet browser, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Ryan, who had lobbied the DPC to look into Google's practices, says a major reason is that the industry is still trying to see what they can get away with under the law.

"Up until now, most of the industry that I'm involved in has been playing a game of chicken with regulators," Ryan told The Hill.

But he added that companies should brace themselves for what's ahead as the fight shifts to the courts and regulators ramp up their probes.

"I think we're only now at the point where it's clear to the industry that they're going to lose this game," Ryan said.

Read more on GDPR turning one here.

 

BAD RATING, NO RIDE: Ride-hailing company Uber announced Wednesday that it will ban passengers with "significantly below average ratings" from using the popular app.

In a blog post, the company said the move is part of a new "education campaign" designed to push for more customer awareness of community standards.

"Respect is a two-way street, and so is accountability," the post reads. "Drivers have long been expected to meet a minimum rating threshold which can vary city to city. While we expect only a small number of riders to ultimately be impacted by ratings-based deactivations, it's the right thing to do."

Uber said that customers at risk of being removed from the app will receive warnings and will have "several opportunities" to improve their behavior while using Uber.

Read more here.

 

POMPEO GOES AFTER HUAWEI: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump calls on foreign countries to protect their own oil tankers Trump to travel to South Korea The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck MORE has labeled Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei an "instrument of the Chinese government."

"Huawei is an instrument of the Chinese government," Pompeo said in a Fox Business Network interview that aired Wednesday. "They're deeply connected. It's something that's hard for Americans to understand."

"Our companies cooperate with the United States government. That is, they comply with our laws. But no president directs an American private company. That's very different in China. They just simply operate under a different set of a rules," he added.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: China's weapon of mass surveillance is a human rights abuse.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Per my last email.  

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Facial recognition technology is facing a huge backlash in the US. But some of the world's biggest tech companies are trying to sell it in the Gulf. (Buzzfeed News)

Twitter has started researching whether white supremacists belong on Twitter. (Motherboard)

Facebook sees 'many open questions' in years-long privacy pivot. (Bloomberg News)

Facebook's engagement is sinking with no end in sight. (Mashable)